How do you approach growth for your business?
For example, if you've hired employees or partnered with other freelancers, what issues did you encounter, and what questions did you ask along the way?
I've always found the overhead of having people working for me, and the obligations that it entails, to be very intimidating. Same with formal partnerships.
What about you?
I made a post awhile back A New Referral Source Everyone Should Try? and going into 2016 that was part of my business growth strategy. So far we are busy completing projects and hopefully will shortly have a bit of a break. We are already ahead of our half year web projects from 2015 but I did not really consider that we would be working through spring break/winter break. We have hired two additional staff members and have four part time student workers (I don't believe in interns). If you read that post then you are up to speed on where I was last month.
Now it is April and I'm thinking VERY differently. More projects are nice but too many projects for me is a horror. Since I started my business we have had growth every year and changed our client base and prices several times. Now we are at the point where to upgrade our client base we would be going after clients that I don't really want, our pricing has reached its plateau. I love the creativity that design provides but going forward I want to concentrate more on virtual products (I fully understand that websites are kind of virtual projects in themselves). What I want to concentrate on is domain sales, hosting, templates and my other reseller program offerings. Going forward we will be more selective in choosing web design clients and perhaps turn down projects that rank in the lower tier of our pricing structure, hopefully we can limit design to 30 to 40 web projects per year.
I've gone from me doing websites in my basement, to hiring freelance coders, to a full time employee, to a storefront live/work space, to having to move out of my own space to accommodate more employees, to now bursting at the seems with desks and people. Freelancers were great but it was a bit difficult to find a good freelancer who delivered great results at a palatable price and when I found them I hired them. One employee was great but I felt the need to take jobs and clients I would not ordinarily have taken to "keep the lights on" so to speak. Now, sixteen employees are wonderful and I hopefully have found the correct market at the right price point.
I started with the goal of having a boutique design firm, I don't know what number is the limit but I feel like we are large enough? We are doing a complete web design for each client that we take. We don't use templates, most of a new website will be designed especially for the client. We of course use some of the same code for calendars, contact forms, SEO... but every design is fresh, though tends to lend itself to our specific style.
When I was a one man show I was looking around "buy a template" sites and thought "I can code much better than that." and proceeded to code a template. It took some trial and error to find what people wanted but once I got that sorted it was all sales from there. The first template I put up for sale was one hundred purchases within the first week and I was overjoyed. The numbers kept climbing and then all of the help requests and questions came in. Being just one guy it was overwhelming and I had to pull the template down even though it made really good money. At that point I decided "one template, one client" would be my model rather than one template one thousand clients. Now I feel like I am ready to revisit mass market design and products. Hopefully we can continue with what we are doing and find some room to expand into the mass market.
Yes @Andy, I have found out first hand the weight that comes with staff. I don't have any children but I feel what having that level of responsibility must be like? I remember the carefree bliss of a Friday check coming but I haven't had that ease in years. Curious to hear what plans others have for growth.
roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head
Like @rd, one of the biggest problems in growing any aspect of business is the people you bring on board. As part of our retail business finding a good store manager has been a trying experience, but now the we have on its great. The path getting there is one reason I now have no hair!
We've also had an in-home party business for 20 years. As I discuss how to grow a business with newcomers to this business model, I always ask them this question, "Do you want to manage people or manage your own sales activities?" They are two totally different approaches to making money. I think this applies to a web-business as well as a traditional business.
One route that I am considering is finding good services providers that have decent paying affiliate programs. This way I do have some additional income for a project, but I don't have to manage those people. I never recommend a service that I don't use or have not used in my projects.
Once again, I totally agree with @rd, that there are clients that one definitely does not want. Consequently, growth doesn't have to be measured by the number of clients. One of the questions, that we may ask is "what does it mean by growing my business?" So @Andy, perhaps one of the metrics is does my business allow me to live the lifestyle that I want? Sometimes, its just not all about the numbers!